Large amounts of the 'fuel-oxygenate' compound methyl-tert-butyl ether (MTBE) are currently being used in gasoline to reduce carbon monoxide and ozone in urban air and to boost fuel octane. Because MTBE can be transported to surface waters in various ways, established theory was used to calculate half-lives for MTBE volatilizing from flowing surface waters. Similar calculations were made for benzene as a representative of the 'BTEX' group of compounds (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and the xylenes), and for tert-butyl alcohol (TBA). The calculations were made as a function of the mean flow velocity u (m/day), the mean flow depth h (m), the ambient temperature, and the wind speed. In deep, slow-moving flows, MTBE volatilizes at rates which are similar to those for the BTEX compounds. In shallow, fast-moving flows, MTBE volatilizes more slowly than benzene, though in such flows both MTBE and benzene volatilize quickly enough that these differences may often not have much practical significance. TBA was found to be essentially nonvolatile from water.
Additional publication details
Calculated volatilization rates of fuel oxygenate compounds and other gasoline-related compounds from rivers and streams